By L Pierce Carson
It didn’t take long Monday night for an award-winning youth choir from the Big Apple to put big smiles on the faces of a worldly Festival del Sole audience.
Fresh from the competitive ranks of the Golden Gate Choral Competition — during which the disciplined, attractive choristers earned three gold medals in major categories — the Young People’s Chorus (YPC) of New York City presented a delightful hour-long program of material ranging from classical to pop in the Christian Brothers Mont La Salle Chapel on Mount Veeder.
The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award-winning Young People’s Chorus of New York City provides children of all ethnic, religious, economic backgrounds and disabilities with a exceptional program of music education and choral performance, while maintaining a model of artistic excellence and humanity that civic leaders have praised for enriching the community. The chorus was founded by MacArthur Fellow Francisco J. Núñez in 1988 “to provide children of all ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds with a safe haven for personal and artistic growth.” Observers note this groundbreaking program harnesses the power of music to fulfill the potential of every child.
Close to 1,400 children from ages 7 to 18 participate annually through YPC’s core after-school program, its satellite program in New York City public schools and, since 2012, a new after-school community chorus in New York City’s Washington Heights in two divisions.
The organization’s commitment to artistic excellence and diversity has resulted in frequent invitations for collaborations and performances from a global array of festivals and cultural institutions. Among them are Carnegie Hall, the San Francisco Symphony, the Tokyo Philharmonic and the White House.
Ranging in ages from 15 to 19, the 40-member chorus dazzled a most receptive audience with everything from a shaker tune to southern gospel; impressed all — including a vocal coach from Deutschland — with a remarkable performance of a hunting song by Felix Mendelssohn; and delighted with three Welsh songs that had been arranged by the evening’s honoree, Bay Area composer Gordon Getty.
The remarkable young men and women awed us with a song of the Amazon jungle that included a remarkable thunderstorm, then touched us with a glorious medley of Leonard Bernstein’s songs from “West Side Story.”
And it wasn’t only outstanding singing here — there was lots of song-appropriate choreography. Artistic director Francisco Nunez can take a well-deserved bow.
This was a performance where, at the conclusion, audience members wanted to give the participants a hug. We did get numerous handshakes and smiling ‘thank you’s. Yet it was us who should be thanking them. What a show!
An opening tribute to composer Getty included performances of four pieces for string quartet and the preview of what looks to be a well-made documentary about the life and music of Gordon Getty.